Two US students from Penn State University have developed an affordable ceramic water filtration system for Africa’s Sub-Saharan countries. The system is based on a design by the non-profit organization Potters for Peace, and it can be built in just two days for $200.

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Working under the Penn State’s Humanitarian Engineering and Social Entrepreneurship (HESE) program, students Kory Hansen and Jin Ju Kim first tested and tried the filters on the Penn State campus. The system removed 99.9 percent of bacteria and it shows promise as a method of securing fresh water for homes in rural East African home, eliminating the need to go to long distances to collect it.

“The filter itself, made of clay and sawdust, eliminates 80 percent of the bacteria and pathogens. When it is coated in silver, it reacts and makes it 99 percent effective. However, silver is probably the only thing not local, and it had to be imported from India or China,” said Hansen.

“The water didn’t go through the local clay very well. We didn’t realize the clay had to be prepared differently. We fired it at the temperature used in the classroom, and the mixture of sand and clay turned to glass and filled the holes that filter the water,” she added.

After working on the water filter system, the students took up another micro-financed project, dealing with social needs of women in African countries. Their aim is to have the results published in an international journal later this year.